Members of 350 Kingston brought climate action to Kingston’s morning commute Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2021. The early morning campaign took place at the corner of Lower University and King Street from 7:30 to 8 a.m.
“It’s the start of something that we are going to be doing for quite a while,” said 350 Kingston member, Jeremy Milloy, “because we are in a critical climate crisis. We need more people to take action and join us and we need to take dramatic, serious action to meet the scale of the problem, which is a global climate crisis.”
“We will be out early in the morning for at least the next few Tuesdays, just to connect with more people and share the message that they’re in the climate crisis but there is also something you can do about it,” he said.
The group chose the location near Kingston General Hospital (KGH) not just because it is a high traffic area in the morning but also because the climate crisis is a health crisis, said Milloy.
Milloy points out that just as one public health emergency seems to be coming under control, the past week has been a harsh reminder that another public health crisis has had far less attention. Climate change threatens the health of the entire planet. “Healthcare workers are the people who have been doing amazing work and are central to the amazing response to probably the most significant public health challenge in Canada in my lifetime: COVID-19. But we also wanted to share the message that there is another and perhaps even greater public health crisis that is building around the world and here in Canada,” he said.
Climate change can impact health directly or indirectly. Direct impacts can occur from trauma, displacement, and deaths associated with floods, storms, and wildfires, and via heat-related illness. The indirect health impacts of climate change to nature include insect spreading diseases such as tick-borne illnesses and air pollution resulting from the increased production of pollen or smoke from wildfires. Human systems impacted by climate change include food insecurity, migration, displacement, and conflict.
These indirect health impacts can be seen through the record-breaking temperatures across B.C. and the Prairies recently which have left many dead or displaced. Nearly 500 heat-related sudden deaths have been reported in B.C., where 180 wildfires are still burning due to last week’s “heat dome.” The hottest town in B.C., Lytton, was destroyed by flames with terrifying speed.
“The kind of things that are affected; wildfires and drought and air pollution and warming temperatures, more storms, more extreme temperatures, all these things play an enormous role in determining our health as human beings,” explained Milloy, “People are dying all over the world right now because of these conditions, so we wanted to go to the site of a response to public health, to talk about another public health crisis.”
“The world changed gears overnight to meet the challenge of the Coronavirus,” Milloy emphasized, “We can and we must change gears as a society to meet the challenge of climate change.”
Milloy encourages everyone to familiarize themselves with the climate action movement. “350 Kingston is a big group. We are very diverse people who participate in a number of different ways. We’re just all unified in our love for the planet, and desire for a future so we’re going to be out there to spread the word. This is a scary time but there are definitely things that people can do right here in Kingston to make a difference,” he expressed.
350 Kingston was originally formed in preparation for the Global Climate March on November 29, 2015, for which they successfully organized a rally of 400+ people in downtown Kingston. They continue to meet once per month to organize local actions on climate change.
The group is part of a worldwide collaboration of organizers, community groups and regular people fighting for a fossil-free future, 350.org. Founded in 2008 by a group of university friends in the United States along with author Bill McKibben, who wrote one of the first books on global warming for the general public, the goal was to build a global climate movement. 350 was named after 350 parts per million — the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“My philosophy,” said Milloy, “is no one can do everything but everyone can do something. And if you’re in Kingston and you care about this issue, but you don’t know where to start, that’s fine. That’s where we all start. Please reach out to 350 Kingston– we all have a part to play.”